Missa accomplished

Lunch over, our house-guest packed and off, finally I made a nice cup of tea and settled down, the afternoon blocked out for a good patch of study. Immediately the phone rang. Against the background din of a bus, my friends informed me that the supposed 7pm Prom I’d booked would, in fact, start in half an hour and would I still be able to make it? I downed tea and scrammed, arriving just in time for our cheap seats to be upgraded to a box, the Albert Hall being only part full.

Odd, we thought, it had been sold out the first time I tried to get tickets. Looking at a programme, the reason became apparent: Bach, Escaich, Reger, Franck, Liszt. Yes but where was the anticipated Beethoven Mass, today’s big draw? It couldn’t be. It was. This was the wrong Prom.

I sat, wondering whether my friends might not notice. Bach. That must be Choral? Maybe the rest too, maybe they might not know the difference, I thought, wildly scrutinising the small print. An organ recital. Something I have never knowingly booked. “Erm,” I said, and pointed to the programme notes.

“I like organ music,” one friend was gallant, the other also polite, although I knew she’d been looking forwards to the big choral sound of the Beethoven. Thierry Escaich started to play, an improvised medley around Baroque ideas. I relaxed slightly. This, wasn’t all bad. Not Beethoven. But not bad. Too accustomed to the groans from instruments whose cries for maintenance fall on the deaf ears of church roof funding committees, I was forced to admit that perhaps I had judged organs unfairly. And that not all organ music was Widor’s Toccata from Symphony No. 5 as overplayed by the under talented. The Bach was…really good. I was enjoying this. I did miss the visceral sense of a symphony orchestra, the chest bone vibrating roar, but there was no stumble stoppered blur of notes that, somehow despite the top flight player, instrument and acoustics, I had expected. Deftly the programme pirouetted us through the ages and afternoon. “There might even be evening tickets left,” I said, study forgotten and lingering after the final applause.

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